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4 Things That Keep Employees Loyal (Hint: It's Not Money or Perks)

Hey, if Google and Amazon can't keep employees from leaving, then money and perks aren't the answers. Here's what is.
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You can ditch the esoteric interview questions; skip the outlandish benefits and uber-hip working conditions; and forget building an awesome brand. When it comes to hiring-- and more importantly, keeping-- great employees, not even paying well above market compensation guarantees success.

In a recent survey of companies with the highest amount of employee turnover, guess which trailblazing exemplars of world-class employee-centricity came in second and fourth, respectively? None other than Google and Amazon.

All of which just goes to show, as the Beatles once said, money can't buy you love.

If resource-rich employers like Wynn Resorts and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (#6 and #18 on the list of companies with the least loyal employees) can't build loyalty in their workforce, what chance does the average, resource-constrained, small- and medium-sized business have?

Well, the truth is, quite a lot.

Despite the fact that most small business founder/owners feel that they are in a David and Goliath-like battle for talent with mega-employers, the reality is that great employees are all looking for an environment that any business, large or small can provide.

Here are the four key ways to ensure that, so long as you're paying at or near market compensation, your employees will remain engaged and loyal, irrespective of the size of your business:

1. Good communication. Would you stay in a relationship with someone who rarely if ever communicated with you, and who, when they did, seemed to believe you were a somewhat dim, untrustworthy delinquent? Probably not. Nor will your employees.

Employee communications has been over-complicated and over-engineered during the past 25 years or so. The principles are simple and self-evident: Communicate often-- more than you think you need to. Communicate about things that matter, not trivia. Be open and as honest as you can, within the bounds of prudence and legality. Communicate simply, and if at possible, with some humility and elegance. But above all communicate--you're in a relationship with these people, after all.

2. Consistency. Sometimes good employees leave for clearly defined, explicable reasons, but often they leave for reasons that even they find hard to articulate. When pressed, they'll say that there was no one specific incident or event that they can put a finger on, just a 'death by a thousand cuts' that eventually pushed them out the door.

Almost always at the heart of such a separation is something mundane: an undermining sense of disrespect caused by simple, but persistent, inconsistency in how they've been treated.

Be consistent in your dealings with people. Employees notice inconsistencies precisely the same way anyone else does in any other walk of life. Many a great employee has left solely because of an eventual collapse of trust caused by the cumulative, drip, drip, drip effect of an unending litany of inconsistencies.

When you say you'll do a thing, do it.When you need to be somewhere, with someone, be there. When you start a new initiative involving others, finish it, or at least wrap it up with some finality. When you make a commitment, however granular or seemingly unimportant, write it down, make it happen, follow through. Show simple respect by being consistent. Enforce the same consistency in others.

3. The opportunity to do great work. No-one worth their salt is going to hang around while you do everything important or exciting yourself, or play favorites with who gets to do the good stuff. Give people the opportunity to do great work. (Heads-up: If how to make that happen is a mystery to you, you have other, much more deep-seated problems.)

4. A decent, non-toxic manager. The rise of the now-ubiquitous 'employee engagement survey' (pardon my gag reflex) has mostly happened because of the cowardice of most HR departments in dealing with a single, glaring issue: toxic managers (it's easier and less politically dangerous, to conduct a survey and pretend to do something, than face down a cadre of entrenched bullies or incompetents).

Yet in every exit poll, one reason consistently tops the list as to why good employees leave, and that is...drum roll not necessary...bad managers.

This isn't rocket science: Don't make someone a manager because they're not cutting it in their day job. Don't make your cousin Jimmy a manager because your sister asked for a favor. Don't make battlefield promotions under pressure that you'll regret a month or two later. You have the road map already: appoint managers who communicate well; who are consistent; who let their people do great work, and who are reasonably competent at what they do.

You know. Decent people. Remember them?

Download a free chapter from the author's book, "The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success" which provides a comprehensive model for developing yourself or others as an exceptional, world class leader.

IMAGE: REB Images/Flickr
Last updated: Aug 1, 2013




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